Forced marriages Prevail in Developed Countries

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Making forced marriage a crime sends an unequivocal message that it is not just immoral but against the lawBecause many women don’t know their rights or fear to claim them, Criminalising forced marriage key step in rooting it out, chief British prosecutor says

And if you think about forced marriage as an ancient practice happening in remote parts of the world, you couldn’t be more wrong. It’s happening – and growing – right now in 21st century Europe and America

FACTBOX-Fighting forced marriage in Britain

By Astrid Zweynert

LONDON (Somalilandsun) – Parents who force their children to marry against their will could be jailed under a new law proposed by the British government in June.

Here are some facts about forced marriage in Britain:

* At least 8,000 girls and women are forced into marriage or threatened with forced marriage each year, according to government estimates. Experts believe the real figure could be much higher because cases are not always brought to the authorities’ attention.

* Forced marriage is most common among Britain’s Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian communities. It also is practiced by Middle Eastern, North African and Eastern European groups as well as among some Christians.

* The majority of known cases are girls but some 15 percent of victims are male, according to government data. Adults with physical and learning disabilities, who cannot give their consent, are also affected.

Britains Prime Minister David Cameron is championing legislation that would make forced marriage a criminal offence* The new law, which covers England and Wales, will distinguish between forced marriages, where there is no consent, and arranged marriages where both parties have consented to the union but can still refuse to marry if they choose to.

* Campaigners fear the plan could deter victims from coming forward because they may not want their families to have a criminal record. Some say that criminal law already provides punishment for offences that may be committed when coercing someone into matrimony, such as kidnap and false imprisonment.

* The government has a Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) to provide advice and support related to those who have been forced into a marriage, those at risk of being forced to marry, people worried about friends or relatives, professionals with actual or potential victims. In 2011, the FMU gave advice or support in 1,468 instances related to a possible forced marriage. The FMU also works with embassies abroad to rescue victims.

* The government has announced a £500,000 fund to help schools and other agencies spot early signs of a forced marriage.

* Under the Forced Marriage Act of 2007 prosecutors can already issue protection orders, aimed at preventing such marriages and protecting victims. This is an order in a civil court and breach is punishable with a two-year jail sentence for contempt of court.

* Scottish courts also have the power to issue protection orders to those at risk, which if breached could carry a two-year prison sentence.

SOURCES: Forced Marriage Unit, Karma Nirvana)

(Reporting by Astrid Zweynert, editing by Lisa Anderson)

FACTBOX: Forced marriage in the United States of America

By Lisa Anderson

NEW YORK (TrustLaw)—The problem of forced marriage remains little known and well hidden in the United States, but experts say it is growing, particularly, but not only, in immigrant communities.

Data is just beginning to be collected on the scope of forced marriage in the U.S. In 2011, the Tahirih Justice Center in suburban Washington, DC conducted what is believed to be the first national survey on the issue. It received responses from over 500 agencies working with various immigrant, ethnic and religious communities in 47 states and the territory of Guam.

The results of the Survey on Forced Marriage in Immigrant Communities in the United States indicated that at least 3,000 known and suspected cases of forced marriage had occurred in the previous two years. Many experts believe the number is much higher due to under-reporting.

The marriages involved people from 56 countries, of various faiths and all ages, though most were female and many were below the age of 18.

“Our survey was the first to dig under the hood of this issue,” Heather Heiman, Tahirih Senior Public Policy Attorney, told TrustLaw. “The survey really brought home that while organisations were aware of the issue, most don’t have the ability to define forced marriage and they don’t know what to do.”

“What we also heard over and over again was that victims of forced marriage are reluctant to come forward. They’re afraid for themselves. They’re afraid for their families. They don’t know what kind of services they can access and they don’t know what kind of repercussions (they might face).”

Here are more facts and figures from the survey on forced marriage in the United States:

• Definition: How Tahirih distinguishes between arranged and forced marriage: “An arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage. A forced marriage, in which an individual feels she has no ultimate right to choose her partner and/or no meaningful way to say no to the marriage, is distinguishable from an arranged marriage, in which the families of both parties (or religious leaders or others) take the lead, but ultimately, the choice remains with the individual. “

• There is no federal law in the United States against forced marriage and only nine states and territories have laws criminalising the practice: California, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Virginia and the Virgin Islands.

• No forced marriage prosecutions have ever been brought under these laws against a parent or other participant, according to Tahirih research

• 67 percent of respondents felt there were cases of forced marriage not being identified in the communities with which they worked, suggesting a significant number of “hidden victims.”

• Less than 25 percent of respondents said their agency’s screening process enabled them to identify cases of forced marriage.

• Less than 10 percent of respondents said they had a working definition of forced marriage at their agency.

• Less than 20 percent of respondents said their agency was properly equipped to help individuals facing forced marriage.

Source: Tahirih Justice Center

This factbox is part of a Thomson Reuters Foundation special report on forced marriage

This factbox is part of a Thomson Reuters Foundation special report on forced marriage

Source: trustlaw

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